I have been giving a lot of thought lately to the many students listed on the website Canary Mission, a blacklist for students, professors, individuals, and organizations involved in Palestine solidarity activism. The goal of the site is to discourage students in particular from becoming active on campus because their name and activities could be added to the dossier and thus hamper their job prospects after graduation.
There are a number of questionable or stupid comments by people on the list that have been screen capped for all eternity in a sea of mostly garden-variety, standard anti-Zionist activity. I am the first to admit that I have said some questionable things on the internet and I don't believe that if someone says something idiotic once, that makes them a racist or an antisemite or a horrible person or that they should tarred and feathered on the first page of Google for the rest of their life. I believe we are more than our internet comments. I bet you, dear reader, have probably said something fairly inept on the internet before that you'd prefer not be the first thing that comes up on Google.
That being said, what can be done about it? Here are some ideas:
1) Be positive
Register your name as a domain, create a website and create positive, helpful content on the internet. You could start your own blog, YouTube channel, or Instagram focusing on your hobbies or helping others and link these to your website. You could put your coding projects online. Make sure it's the kind of content that would impress a future employer. Volunteer at a nonprofit and document the work you do online through photos, video and writing. Google will learn that your domain is more legit than Canary Mission and it will appear higher up.
Zoha Khalili, staff attorney at Palestine Legal adds:
"I generally encourage people to try to put out content and info about themselves so that their web presence reflects their actual viewpoint and activities and not Canary Mission's. If you are in a local paper or school paper or on LinkedIn, Google recognizes that that info is more valid than Canary Mission, so it will be more prominent in your search results."
2) Become an entrepreneur
Start your own business. This is not for everyone, but it is possible and there are plenty of young people out there doing it. One of the reasons I ended up starting my own business was because after I returned from 3 years in Palestine, with all the interviews I had given, articles I had written and cartoons I created, I knew it would probably be pretty hard for me to get a "real job."
3) Follow your heart
Start your own nonprofit that employs you. Clearly you are the type that loves to help those less fortunate, so why not start a nonprofit that addresses some of the problems you care about? Think of the many prominent activists who work full time at nonprofits they helped launch.
4) Resist internet mobs
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I believe that what we put out there comes back to us. If you see someone being internet mobbed for something stupid they said or something that others just don't agree with, resist internet call out culture which cherry picks regrettable comments from people and ruins their lives.
5) Add yourself to Against Canary Mission
If you have any other ideas for anyone blacklisted by Canary Mission, please leave them in the comments! You may also contact Palestine Legal for further advise on a case by case basis. If you're on Canary Mission I'd also like to hear from you in the comments below. Share your approach with us.